Four years ago, I stepped upon the Bixby campus for the first time as part of a visit on behalf of the Association of Colorado Independent Schools. Instantly, I could feel that this school was unlike any other I had previously visited. Upon entering the preschool, I watched young children laughing freely, exploring, and creating. In the elementary program, I noticed unusually small groups of students, about six, being taught by individual teachers who were experts in their subject matter. Instead of one “homeroom” teacher being responsible for the majority of instruction, students traveled from teacher to teacher and learned, for example, science not from a teacher who just taught the subject, but from an actual scientist who also loved children. I had not ever before witnessed that kind of deep, individualized, intellectual critical thinking by students in such a consistent manner.
I glanced out of a second story window, my eyes landing upon a playground that was designed and constructed by one of Bixby’s founders. On this unique cross between a ropes course and elaborate labyrinth, children were taking calculated risks and solving problems as they attempted to get from one side to the other without touching the ground or by navigating the maze with friends that seemed to span several grade levels and ages. Lunch, served to all, was a delectable homemade meal brimming with organic vegetables from the school garden. At this school teachers were eating alongside the children at the same tables and the humming of eating, talking and laughter permeated the space.
Discovering that the founders also believed in free time (as in the level of adult interference in children’s lives impedes their ability to develop independence, self-regulation, and creativity), I watched a small group of students read, build, and think during the 45-minutes of free time that was built into their schedules. The Bixby founders also found that physical exercise, particularly the cross-body motions of swimming, was key to childhood. Thus, they built a pool and swimming is part of the curriculum and school day for every Bixby student.
Though these characteristics were impressive on their own, what was most engaging to me was the spirit of Bixby. There was a joy and beauty innate in every interaction. I watched an incredibly talented teacher notice that a 4th grade boy was not singing at lunch with his peers. Quietly, as the children were walking to the playground, the teacher walked alongside and gently inquired, “I noticed that you weren’t singing and I was just wondering what you were thinking.” No shame, just genuine care that everything was okay for this student. In most schools, no one would have even noticed.
Bixby has an amazingly active alumni network. As these doctors, entrepreneurs, attorneys, educators, artists, scientists, and technology trailblazers reminisce about their elementary days, they all credit Bixby with being the fundamental experience that fostered their success and ability to find and follow their paths passionately and competently. At Bixby, you will find an authenticity, dynamism, and reverence to childhood that rarely exists in our world today. I invite you to come and experience the magic for yourself.
Beth Heller Suitor
Head of School